In the early 1900s a visionary Kentuckian founded a soft drink company. He had seen a carbonation machine and imagined a future of family brands beloved in homes across the country. Now, over 100 years and many products later, the company now known as the Ale 8 One Bottling Company is a hallmark name in the state of Kentucky and beyond.
Following George Lee Wainscott’s pioneering business model, Ale-8 is still privately owned and operated, currently boasting the youngest CEO in its history. Fielding Rogers, a fourth generation guardian of the brand, still mixes the secret ingredient for every batch of Ale-8 behind locked doors and by hand. Their proprietary recipe has helped them stand the test of time and industry evolution, and helped make them the Kentucky Proud treasure that they are today.
Beyond the quality of the products, the Ale 8 One Bottling Company stands out for their innovation, sustainable practices, and commitment to positive community impact across the state.
The original product created by George Lee Wainscott was a cola drink, Roxa Kola, which caught the attention of Coca Cola resulting in a lingering lawsuit. Because of his commitment to signature recipes and sound business practices, he won the suit and an appeal, proving that his company was there to stay. The recipe for Ale-8 was first tasted by the public at the Clark County fair in 1926 where they held a naming contest for the beverage. It was a young woman who submitted the name “A Late One” and the company loved it, reflecting the name as Ale-8-One. They produced cola and other flavored soft drinks in addition to Ale-8, but Ale-8 itself did not evolve until the diet version was released in 2003. Since that time they have also released a caffeine free version (2011), Cherry Ale-8 (2018), and in 2019 a seasonal Orange Ale-8 hit the shelves. They are not afraid to build on the foundation of their fantastic formula to give fans new things to enjoy!
For decades in the Eastern/Central Kentucky markets, long neck Ale-8 bottles have been returnable to retailers across the region as well as directly to the bottling plant for $0.30 per bottle. All returned bottles are taken back to the production facility off of I-64 in Winchester. They go through an extensive cleaning process, damaged bottles are removed from circulation, and those that pass inspection following sterilization are refilled and distributed once again. They are the ONLY company in our area that still has a returnable bottle program, showing their commitment to those traditions that are good for both consumers and the environment. These bottles hold a special sentiment for Kentuckians, too, and I have to say that I’m one who believes the ginger-citrus soda really does taste better from a longneck. BONUS: You can now purchase and return longneck Ale-8 bottles at Quest Outdoors in Louisville!
Ale-8 is committed to positive community impact. Their second biggest budget line item is DONATIONS. They are particularly proud of their partnership with the organization 1% for the Planet through which they give back 1% of all longneck bottle and tall boy cans to protect Kentucky wilderness like the Red River Gorge. They have been named the official beverage of the Red River Gorge, and joined up with other groups like the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition, Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, Bluegrass Green Source and Kentucky Waterways Alliance, proving their commitment to conservation and outdoor recreation.
One of our favorite Ale-8 partnerships is with an organization in our city called Louisville Grows. Based in the West End, Louisville Grows seeks to empower and educate people to live more sustainable lives. They instruct in urban forestry, gardening, homesteading, and much more. Ale-8 is currently a sponsor of the Louisville Grows Film Series, a monthly event showing documentaries about health and environmental issues. By providing funding for this series, and donating beverages to the screening experiences, Ale-8 is part of educating our community in how to live in ways that can make the future better for everyone.
Ale-8 is also committed to supporting our nations servicemen and women, by shipping thousands of cases overseas, and working with Operation Military Cheer, an annual toy drive for Kentucky National Guard families each holiday season.
These days you see Ale-8 all over the bourbon industry, too! They are associate members of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association and have partnerships with brands like Buffalo Trace & Cooper’s Craft. They’re being featured in bourbon slushies at places like Feast BBQ in Louisville and at the annual NuLu Fest! They are also advocates for the sober community and partner with the Mocktail Project and others to share recipes using Ale-8 products that anyone not able or interested in drinking alcohol can enjoy at events or at home!
You’re bound to be impressed with this company’s character and legacy, but it’s possible that you’ve never tasted the “best of the Bluegrass in green glass”. If not, you need to change that. Ale-8 is currently available at most gas stations and Kroger locations in the Louisville metro area. You can CLICK HERE for a full list of local retailers in your area.
After you fall in love with Ale-8 take a mini road trip to Winchester for a tour of their production/bottling facility. It’s a fun and educational experience for the whole family! Check out tour times HERE!
We are big fans of Ale-8 and keep it stocked in our offices pretty regularly. It’s always fun to twist the top and know that you’re supporting a privately owned Kentucky business. Don’t forget to post your Ale-8 experience on the socials and tag them @ale8one!